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Cautious optimism on Indo-China defence ties

world Updated: Jul 07, 2013 01:46 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Signalling a measured thaw in defence relations after the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh, India and China on Saturday talked of maintaining “peace and tranquility” on the border, while announcing enhanced defence cooperation and communication.

The joint statement issued at the end of defence minister AK Antony’s meetings — including one with Premier Li Keqiang — indicated that both countries were willing — or at least talking — to take measures to prevent a repeat of the intrusion.

“Noting that peace and tranquility on the border was an important guarantor for the growth and development of bilateral cooperation, the (Indian and Chinese) ministers emphasised the importance of enhancing mutual trust and understanding between the two militaries,” the statement read.
But Antony and official sources in Beijing were only cautiously optimistic.

“You must always be realistic, and you should not dream. There are problems, but they are from history, not today’s problems; main is the boundary. You cannot expect immediate solution,” Antony, who is the first defence minister to visit China in seven years, told Indian reporters on Saturday. He repeatedly emphasised that the talks were “free and frank”.

But neither Antony nor Indian diplomats were willing to say that incidents of Chinese incursion like the one in Depsang will not recur.
China, however, has agreed to two Indian proposals to prevent a similar incident, said Antony. They are: More border personnel meetings at additional locations, and enhancement in direct military-to-military communication.

Antony said progress was also made in finalising the border defence cooperation agreement (BDCA). “There is consensus on most points,” he said. Officials, however, indicated finalising the BDCA text would take more time.

“The Chinese draft came in March. Then we gave them a draft in May. Then they responded before the defence minister came. We will now respond to their comments on our comments. This is going to go up and down,” official sources said.